George A. Romero’s traditional Useless movies might have sparked an explosion of zombie media, however it took fairly some time for these undead ghouls to invade tv screens. Not like ghosts, werewolves and vampires, which benefited from fashionable exhibits like Darkish Shadows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, shambling corpses have been often overlooked of prime-time programming. Whereas this modified with the success of AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Strolling Useless, that doesn’t imply zombies have been all the time absent from the small display. That’s why I’d wish to discover the inevitable rise of “Z-TV” and why we nonetheless adore it.
For the needs of this text, we’ll solely be contemplating “trendy” undead zombies, because the voodoo-inspired drones of early horror have little in frequent with the cannibalistic monsters that we all know and love. We’re additionally excluding ghostly/phantasmagorical depictions of the undead, as that will be stretching the definition of “zombie” a little bit too skinny.
In any case, the earliest occasion of one thing resembling trendy zombies on tv arguably occurred in 1964, predating Romero’s iconic tackle flesh-eating ghouls by 4 years! In Twilight Zone‘s Mr. Garrity and the Graves, Rod Serling launched audiences to the supposedly true story of an old-west conman who satisfied the residents of a small city that he may elevate the useless. Whereas it principally focuses on the social penalties of getting deceased residents come again to life, the episode ends with the disgruntled corpses of the city of Happiness rising from their graves, hell-bent on getting even with the dwelling.
The haunting picture of an empty cemetery makes for one hell of a last shot, however these re-animated revenants aren’t precisely the normal undead monsters that we’re used to. It was solely within the 90s that TV would actually begin to mess around with style storytelling, with media juggernauts like The X-Information and Buffy the Vampire Slayer lastly bringing creatures like aliens and demons to the small display. Even then, there have been nonetheless only a few zombie-specific tales, although we noticed a handful of memorable ones.
Buffy had a very enjoyable zombie episode in season 3’s Useless Man’s Occasion, the place a macabre Nigerian masks begins to reanimate the deceased residents of Sunnydale, leading to undead party-crashers at Buffy’s welcome-back celebration. That very same season would additionally deal with re-animated corpses in The Zeppo, with Xander befriending a rabble-rousing group of undead high-schoolers in an try to look “cool”.
Curiously, the seventh season of The X-Information was initially meant to function a narrative impressed by Night time of the Dwelling Useless, with a script written by Stephen King and the episode allegedly being directed by George Romero himself. Although the thought was finally scrapped, zombies would nonetheless make their approach into the present’s canon by means of a crossover episode with Millennium, which additionally served as an abrupt collection finale for Chris Carter’s underrated spin-off. Mulder and Scully teaming up with Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black in a battle in opposition to cannibalistic ghouls might not have been the type of closure that Millennium followers have been on the lookout for, however it nonetheless made for a enjoyable episode with loads of references to Romero’s traditional.
Within the animated world, The Simpsons first encountered zombies within the Z For Zombies section of the third Treehouse of Horror particular, which options Bart unleashing an undead apocalypse after making an attempt to revive the household’s lately deceased cat, Pet-Sematary-style. We’d additionally see particular zombie-themed episodes in different animated exhibits, with all the pieces from South Park‘s traditional Pinkeye to Animaniacs‘ Night time of the Dwelling Buttons poking enjoyable on the sub-genre.
In one in all my private favourite examples of televised zombies, the third episode of Edgar Wright’s Spaced options Simon Pegg preventing off imaginary ghouls after enjoying Resident Evil 2 whereas excessive on medication. Not solely is that this a hilarious episode of a superb collection, however it’s additionally the inspiration behind Wright and Pegg’s Shaun of the Useless, making it a horror-comedy landmark.
From Supernatural‘s Useless Males Don’t Put on Plaid to Group‘s notorious Halloween particular Epidemiology, the 2000s would proceed the paranormal development on tv, permitting for extra particular zombie episodes even in non-horror programming. Nonetheless, the zombies of this decade can be extra influenced by movies like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Daybreak of the Useless remake as a substitute of old style horror flicks, enjoying up the contagion and body-horror elements of the undead menace.
It was solely in 2008 that we’d additionally see the primary completely zombie-themed program with Charlie Brooker’s Useless Set miniseries, a actuality TV parody the place Massive Brother contestants discover themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Not solely was the present a large hit, inspiring quarantine challenges in the actual Massive Brother and an eventual Brazilian remake on Netflix, however it additionally paved the best way for the horror present that was about to alter all the pieces.
Two years later, the zombie renaissance was about to start with the discharge of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Strolling Useless. Initially formatted like a six-episode miniseries, the present’s first season was completely revolutionary, as soon as once more turning zombies into a reputable menace and making a robust case for serialized horror storytelling basically. Even when you’re not a fan of the present’s later seasons, there’s no denying its lasting affect on the horror style.
Over the previous decade, the collection’ long-running success has led to a plethora of exhibits that includes re-animated flesh-eaters. From Demise Valley to iZombie, Ash vs. Evil Useless and even spin-offs like Concern the Strolling Useless and Z-Nation‘s underrated Black Summer time, I believe it’s secure to say that zombies have fully contaminated mainstream programming. The style has change into so fashionable that it’s now frequent to see subversive and even satirical takes on its many tropes, reinventing the traditional zombie for brand new audiences.
With The Strolling Useless nonetheless airing its eleventh and last season and streaming companies like Netflix engaged on a number of new zombie exhibits (to not point out extra seasons for his or her present ones), the undead menace is extra fashionable than ever. Perhaps it’s as a result of we wish to think about how we’d react when confronted with a lethal apocalypse, or possibly we simply get pleasure from watching flesh-eating shenanigans on the small display, however the reality is that Z-TV is right here to remain. And I can’t wait to see the place televised zombies go subsequent.